CEO students pitch business ideas to local sharks

Pictured, from left, are CEO sharks Jacob Childerson, Brian Estes, Tammy Rahn and Bethany Prange. (Sean McGowan photo)

At the Monroe County CEO’s first “Shark Tank” event last Wednesday in the Waterloo High School auditorium, four “sharks” carefully weighed the merits of the various pitches students made. 

The 11 CEO students each gave a presentation on their entrepreneurial ideas and took questions from the sharks at the end.

Sharks included venture capitalist and business owner Brian Estes, Stubborn German Brewing owner Tammy Rahn, social media strategist Bethany Prange, and Jacob Childerson, vice president of data operations at Label Insight.

The event was similar in format to the TV series of the same name but did not include the drama associated with reality TV. Additionally, the purpose of the event was not for the sharks to decide whether to invest on the spot, as is the goal of entrepreneurs featured on the show.

A myriad of ideas ranged from helping retirees find employment to connecting local farmers to consumers. At least one presentation featured a demonstration, as the audience watched several students perform a team-building exercise.

The task required the students to continually disconnect and reconnect PVC pipes in order to move a ball through the pipes to a table at the end of the stage. At one point, the ball dropped out of the pipe, but the students picked it up and refocused on the goal.

CEO student Joe Busch explained how the exercise connects to his startup business Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork.

According to Busch, the activity requires constant communication, teamwork and some form of leadership — aspects he worked to convince the audience are lacking in many corporations. 

Busch cited Gallup research concluding that 70 percent of employees report not being engaged in their work. 

Acting as a consultant, Busch said he hopes to use team building to improve employee morale at different organizations. 

“You’re not just watching a presentation. This is really hands on and the best way to build teamwork,” he explained.

The young entrepreneur said his goal is to earn $1,000 with the business by the end of the summer. At the end of the presentation, several questions arose regarding Busch’s business.

“What questions are you asking to understand the organization’s problems?” asked Estes.

Busch reported that he finds out as much as he can about the organization, gauges how effective communication is in the company and asks who the employees are that he will be working with. 

He later told the Republic-Times that the opportunity to share his business idea proved invaluable.

“It was a really cool experience. Not many people have heard about my business,” he said. “So to share it with the sharks and the community was a good opportunity.”

Currently, Busch does not have a social media presence or website, but can be reached at

Megan Grossman also featured her business Managing Your Mess during the event. 

According to Grossman, people waste too much of their time looking for items they have misplaced. She also noted that the tendency on social media is to look for structure with “how to” articles and other posts.

“Everything now is just organization and getting into that cookie-cutter life,” she said.

As an organization consultant, Grossman helps out by organizing a client’s space, such as a bedroom, closet, office space and the like. She also explains her organization process and gives pointers on how to keep an area clean.

“Growing up, if you asked my mom or friends and family, the one word they would use to describe me is ‘perfection,’” she said. “I’m very Type A and all about having stuff organized.

“A lot of times my friends would run into challenges with staying organized and I would help them out. So I decided to turn my passion into a business because people go into business to make money, but I wanted to do something I enjoyed.” 

To get her services out there, she told the sharks she is looking for networking opportunities. Grossman is available at

One of the business ventures in the class involved a collaboration between two students. Blake Holmes and Micah Peters worked together to create B&M Marketing, a social media marketing company.

The service provided with the business involves managing clients’ social media platforms. In arguing the relevance of the company, the partners established that a lot of companies lack the time to manage their social media pages.

Holmes told the audience they are open to any clients but are targeting companies with little or no social media presence.

“If they have an in-house marketer, there’s not much chance we’ll be able to come in and help. We don’t have that portfolio built up to demonstrate our ability,” he said.

Prange suggested to Holmes and Peters that they learn to get creative in producing content if they wish to succeed.

“Most clients are going to want you to create your own content,” she said. 

Holmes and Peters are in the midst of taking an online course to learn more about their passion. Ultimately, their goal is to have four to five stable clients in the next couple months.

“Hopefully, we’ll be 30 and still have it going. We definitely see a need for it in the community,” Holmes assessed.

He added that the “Shark Tank” event provided a solid opportunity to establish connections in the community.

“In all honesty, I thought it was an amazing event because of what I got out of the experience,” he said.

Contact B&M marketing at

Following the event, Monroe County CEO facilitator Jamie Matthews said students can take what they learned to produce the best product with the best return for them and the customer. 

She said she would like to bring the event back next year.

“I think it went really well. The sharks had great questions to help students take their business to the next level,” Matthews said.

Estes said he met with students the week before to run through how to give a pitch. He said every student followed the necessary format, which includes explaining a problem and presenting a solution to the problem.

“I thought the kids did a great job. I was very impressed with how they handled their presentations,” he said.

Additionally, Prange boasted the kids’ thoroughness with creating business plans and researching their market.

“We had lots of questions and they had answers for all of them. I was impressed with it on every level,” she said.

The next opportunity for CEO students to display their businesses will be during a trade show slated for 4 to 7 p.m. April 25 at 11 South in Columbia. 

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